Genre: Sci-fi, Documentary
Directed by: Sebastián Cordero
Starring: Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Sharlto Copley
Europa Report is a 2013 space film, directed by Sebastián Cordero, which combines elements of science fiction, fantasy and docudrama to envisage the story of an ambitious space mission to one of Jupiter’s more habitable moons, Europa.
Set in the near future, a crew of the world’s top astronauts is sent on Earth’s most important mission since the moon landing in 1969. The 20-month long journey sees six brave men and women fly to Europa to determine if life exists in the vast oceans beneath its surface.
The monumental challenge they face begins to sink in when they pass our moon and realise they’ve already gone further than any other humans have. Things are going smoothly for the first several months, but the crew suddenly encounter a problem when a solar flare cuts off their communication with Earth.
From here on they’re isolated beyond a territory unknown to man, but must choose to press on in the interest of humankind’s most significant exploration yet. Alone, the crew must face a chain of difficulties, challenges and fatalities that will push them not just to the edge of the solar system, but also to the brink of their mental and physical strength.
On paper, the concept is a creative and engaging sci-fi space story. Not only does it aim to inspire its audience, it clearly attempts to enlighten viewers as it fictionalises a conceivably real space mission. It’s like a 90-minute episode of Brian Cox’s hit educational programme Wonders of the Solar System, but rather than questioning what’s out there, the film seeks to find the answers.
Using the documentary-style approach means that the story feels more possible and authentic. The vox-pop interviews and recordings from inside the spacecraft make the experience seem very real, but this is also the film’s downfall. The constant static shots make Europa Report feel directionless, hindering the pace of the film as it plays out.
The characters are believable but the film’s style makes each crewmember seem too one-dimensional. It’s hard to become emotionally involved in the hardship they go through because the characters aren’t given a chance to develop. This is a big problem as they’re the only characters we meet.
Europa Report is one of the few low-budget indie films that would probably have benefited from a blockbuster budget and Hollywood control. 2009’s Moon, which was shot for even less than Europa Report, goes to show just what can be achieved on a minimal budget, but the sheer scale of the likes of Prometheus might have been better suited to Cordero’s vision.
The film’s climax will inevitably divide opinion but viewers should at the very least come away from Europa Report with an eye-opening appreciation for the scale of our universe. That’s what the film sets out to achieve, it’s just a shame Cordero couldn’t show it with more passion, and less passivity.